There is a turkey roasting in the oven and stuffing ready to be baked, when the turkey comes out to rest before carving. The sweet potato pie is perfectly baked and sitting on the desert tray next to the plates, forks and napkins. The green bean casserole has been assembled and will go in the oven along with the stuffing and the garlic bread just before the gravy is made, the turkey is plated and then everyone will come to the table and feast on all this freshly made food and while they fill their tummies, they will feel such gratitude for all the blessings they share daily. Thanksgiving is the most family oriented of all holidays for Toni and Heath. This is their second holiday season as a married couple, but their first thousands of miles from family.
About a month ago Toni decided they would have the usual feast, but on a smaller scale. Heath would have been satisfied with a turkey sandwich and a piece of pumpkin pie with her, but he knew how much she missed being with family and the least he could do was get on board with her plan for Thanksgiving. He would do whatever she needed to get through this new and different idea of what was now Thanksgiving and in a month, the new idea of Christmas.
Heath had been offered a large salary increase, more job security and a gigantic promotion with his company 6 months prior. It involved moving from Cleveland to Seattle. Toni had not hesitated for a moment. Her own job, she was a bank loan officer, was a good position, but didn't pay nearly what Heath made and she could probably find another banking job in Seattle. If not, she could try her hand at something else. Working was just a way to make money for her and she had never felt like she had found her niche in the business world so looking for something new was not a bad idea anyway. They had talked about being so far from their families and determined that they now were adults and needed to be responsible for their own lives and together, just the two of them, would make a whole new life in Washington. With that, they were off to their new horizons.
Things had gone quite smoothly since they moved across the country into a house they found on line through a Seattle Realtor. He had sent inside photos and outside photos, photos of the street in both directions and even a couple shots of the neighborhood. It was exactly what they were looking to find. The moving truck was on time with their belongings and the move in was pretty uneventful. Oh, except no one had thought to call the power company and have the power turned on. So the first night would be spent by candle light. They had city water, so there was water, but the hot water was electric, so only cold water. Showers could wait a day or two, if need be. Could have been much worse, they told each other. As it turned out, the power was turned on at 9 AM their first full day in residence and all the unpacking was done in a couple of days. They were home and Heath went off to work his first full day 3 days after the move.
Toni had found work within a couple weeks. A credit union just a few blocks from their home had an ad in the local paper for a full time teller and customer relations person. She applied and was hired a few days later. It was a perfect fit for her and the rest of the staff was rapidly becoming her new friend circle. Heath had met a few of them and so far, pretty much everything was going well for them in their new home, new jobs and new life built for two.
The Thanksgiving week-end would be spent here, just the two of them, because neither of them would have Friday off and consequently, no time to fly home and back again. Just one day off meant no travel. The original plan was to return to Ohio for Christmas, but that plan also had to be amended because Christmas would be on Sunday and both would be at their jobs on Monday. Gifts would be mailed back and phone calls would be made, but they would be alone for both big family holidays this year, at least.
Toni tended to her dinner preparations with total dedication. She didn't want anything to be any less than delicious. She was a good cook and this meal was second nature to her, but with each dish she prepared, she was drawn mentally back to her Mom's kitchen. The turkey, always much bigger than needed, would be in her oven now, too. In fact, because of the time difference, Toni realized as she was basting her turkey for the last time her mom would be serving hers. She thought of all who would be seated at that big table. Her sister and her brother would each have a seat next to their spouses and Toni's beautiful nieces. Her sister had one daughter and her brother had two. Her mom would be sitting next to her dad and her grandmother would be on Dad's other side. Dad, of course, would be at the head of the table.
Her other grandmother, Mom's mom,. would be seated between Mom and Grandpa. He was always in the middle of the table with kids across from him. He liked to make faces at the kids and tease them while everyone ate. Toni quickly wiped a tear from her eye and got back to tending her dinner. She did not want Heath to see inside her heart today. She wanted to enjoy this day with him.
She set the table with her best dishes and silver from their wedding gifts. The napkins were cloth instead of the usual paper. She was using the most beautiful tablecloth she owned. It had been a gift from a very dear friend of her mother's. It was handmade with the most intricate crochet pattern Toni had ever seen. Very small sea shells appeared to cover the small but very close together lines of finely crocheted ropes. The pattern repeated to cover the entire center of the cloth and the outside border was a lacy type crochet. Toni used this cloth only for very special days. Today it adorned the table and showcased her dinnerware and her perfectly cooked Thanksgiving spread.
Heath helped get everything to the table and cleaned up as they went along. They sat to eat and Toni said the blessing. "Welcome to our hearts, dear Lord. Bless the bounty we are about to share and receive our thanks for family and friends who are near to our hearts though far from our home today. Thank you, Lord for our new home and the opportunity to be with each other and share the kind of love many just dream of. Please bless and protect our soldiers on duty today ensuring our freedoms. We are two very grateful people. In Jesus name we pray. Amen".
Heath let go of her hand and then, after a few seconds of silence, told her he knew how difficult this was for her and that he too had been thinking of home all day. He then said, "I am so glad to be here with you. Do you really know how lucky we are? We have dozens of people to think of with love today and they are all safe and pretty much with each other today. All of them are missing you and me today. Do you know how many people are not missed by anyone? Toni, I love you and I am so thankful that we are 'we' and will be forever. Thank you for coming on this journey with me." Again, Toni wiped a few tears from her eyes. She hugged her man and then announced that she was starving and hoped he was, too.
Their first Thanksgiving alone was nearly perfect. The meal, impeccable; the phone call lengthy and loving; the company, perfect and the day went by a bit too quickly. They would be just fine here in their new life. The next year they would probably be able to go home. But they both know now that even if that doesn't work out, they will be fine and even better than fine. They will be happy. Family love is all around you no matter how many miles separate you.